Friday, October 16, 2015

Review of Ballet Phils' SARONG BANGGI: Folk Songs and Family Bonds

October 16, 2015

Honestly, I had no idea what "Sarong Banggi" was going to be about when I decided to go watch it. I just knew that Maestro Ryan Cayabyab himself is going to be conducting the Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra, and for me that was enough reason. The orchestra will be playing Filipino folk songs arranged and orchestrated by Mr. Cayabyab to accompany newly-choreographed ballet numbers rendered by the dancers of Ballet Philippines.

Maestro and the Orchestra

The story opens with a lone female dancer in white, who was later joined by a number of dancers in colorful costumes, as if preparing for a party. They carry the girl in white upward and into their midst. When the crowd cleared, the young girl in white had become an older lady in red. This would just be the first among several magical numbers performed tonight. 

The Set Design of Ohm David

The lady in red is Pilar, who is celebrating her birthday with her grown-up children and her friends. She is notably lonely and aloof, despite the celebrations going on around her, ostensibly because she is missing her husband Jose, the man in blue. Pilar reminisces on her youth (represented by the girl in white) and how she met the young Jose (represented by the boy in white). She recalled their times together, idyllic and otherwise.

Rita Angela Winder

The older Pilar was portrayed by the always-elegant Soloist Rita Angela Winder, while the older Jose is portrayed by no less than Principal Dancer Jean Marc Cordero. Their maturity and dancing skills were unquestionably ideal for these lead roles. Winder, in particular, had a very expressive face. She conveyed her character's loneliness, anguish and longing so well, we can feel her pain, especially in what I felt was her best number "Walay Angay" (choreographed by Nonoy Froilan), which depicted the suffering of wronged women. 

Winder and Jean Marc Cordero (foreground)
with Timothy Paul Cabrera and Jemima Reyes (background)

For me though, the more memorable dance performances were delivered by the young Pilar and Jose, portrayed by the petite and pretty Junior Soloist Monica Amanda Gana and the dashing and energetic Junior Principal Dancer Earl John Arisola. These two had a very electric chemistry between them. You can already feel it in their first number together, the big "West Side Story"-inspired "Salidumay" (choreographed by Ronelson Yadao). Their passionate pas de deux number "Malinac Lay Labi" (choreographed by Carissa Adea) was most beautifully executed.

Monica Amanda Gana and Earl John Arisola

Among the familiar folk songs recognized were "Ati Cu Pung Singsing", "Dalagang Pilipina", "Si Felimon", "Usahay", "Sampaguita" and of course the title song "Sarong Banggi" which closes the first act. The spectacularly joyful finale, featuring a garden full of kites flying, was set to the tune of Nonoy Gallardo's modern folk song "Saranggola ni Pepe" (choreographed by Carlo Pacis). The other choreographers involved were Principal Soloist Cyril Aran Fallar (who also played Jose's friend Felimon) and BP Artistic Director Paul Alexander Morales (who also directed this project). 

"Saranggola ni Pepe"

The arrangements of Maestro Cayabyab and the playing of the PPO were of course flawless. Special mention goes to the lady on the xylophone whose crystalline notes were distinctly heard above the rest.

Rajo Laurel and Dennis Marasigan

Very remarkable was the striking costume design of Rajo Laurel with his delightful play on colors. Respected theater and film director Dennis Marasigan wrote a simple yet affecting libretto for the story told by the dances. The set design by Ohm David was so picturesque in its deceptive simplicity. Creating an effective visual illusion on huge stage of the CCP Main Theater is by no means an easy task. 

Winder and Gana welcome Maestro Cayabyab

Overall, this was a very satisfying, very colorful and entertaining show. The start may be slow, but once you get the drift of the story, you will definitely get drawn in and touched emotionally. You will leave the show with a smile on your face.

Arisola, Gana, Winder, Cordero
with Sir Nonoy Froilan


"Sarong Banggi" will have a very limited run this weekend only for just four performances. There will be two performances on October 17, 2015, at 2pm and 6pm, and one final performance on October 18, 2015, at 2pm. Ticket prices range from P1,500 to P400, with 50% off for students. Please call (02) 551-1003, email, or PM on for more info.

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